June 16 – Mexican fans started the party at Gold Cup. A crowd of 65,536 poured itself out of the Futbol Fiesta in the grounds surrounding the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to watch a 7-goal fiesta in the stadium as an impressive Mexican dismantled Cuba.
The attendance is the second highest ever for a Gold Cup opening game and bodes well for the expanded tournament that is starting to catch the imagination of fans in the US, but will also take in group rounds for the first time in Costa Rica and Jamaica where stadia are expected to be full.
The 31 matches of the Gold Cup will be played in 17 different stadia, showcasing the impressive and vast depth of facilities the US has. The 15 US venues are a mix of venues – nine of them have capacities over 61,000 and six of those over 69,000. The other stadia are soccer-specific venues used by MLS teams with capacities of between 19,000 and 25,000.
Concacaf is reporting strong ticket sales across all venues. The sight of packed stands in the Rose Bowl and the prospect of one of the most open and exciting tournaments to date will certainly help gather tournament momentum in that area.
Both Houston’s BBVA Stadium and Minnesota’s state-of-the-art Allianz Field were announced as sold out venues. Minnesota officially sold out in December of last year, the fastest sellout in tournament history.
The US will play their second round game at the 67,895 capacity FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland. The home crowd there is expected to beat the opening day attendance of the Mexicans in Pasadena on Saturday.
In 2017 the Gold Cup averaged attendance over 32,000. Increasing that average with an increased number of venues and teams is not straightforward but Concacaf have worked hard at expanding its fan engagement activities and if the Futbol Fiesta fan park at the Rose Bowl is anything to go by, the added attractions is having an impact – not least the huge and inviting Modelo beer tent that was the centrepiece.
It is a brave concept in a country where fans have more of a ‘tail-gate’ pre-match culture rather than the more organised activity of a fan park. But at the Rose Bowl it worked with fans queueing to get into the park 90 minutes before the kick off the first game between Canada and Martinique.
Concacaf will be pleased with both the Futbol Fiesta’s debut and the first game attendance. The fact that there were 11 goals to celebrate across the two matches added to the atmosphere.
Critics will point to a mismatch in standards between the teams, but actually what were on show were two very good teams. Mexico under their new coach Gerardo Martino have improved significantly since the Russia 2018 World Cup where they were feted for their 1-0 win over Germany.
Talk of Canada’s recent and fast improvement were proved in competitive action. Beating a Martinique team with Gold Cup experience and a strong French league contingent 4-0 was a significant result and market to put down. Watching how they and Mexico progress will be fascinating. Watching how Cuba and Martinique bounce back is similarly worth buying a ticket for.
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